Beginning of the End for QuickBooks Desktop?

The death knell for Intuit’s QuickBooks Desktop has been sounded before, perhaps not as loudly as recent news would indicate. So, what does it mean?

For those that haven’t seen, or heard, here’s the official notice. On Thursday Nov. 30, 2023 Intuit posted this notice on its Firm of the Future product update page and issued similar personal notices to ProAdvisors:

QuickBooks Desktop is planning to stop selling several products to U.S. new subscribers after July 31, 2024. Here are some top questions you may have regarding this change.

Intuit has made a decision that after July 31, 2024, we will no longer sell new subscriptions of the following products:

  • QuickBooks Desktop Pro Plus
  • QuickBooks Desktop Premier Plus
  • QuickBooks Desktop Mac Plus
  • QuickBooks Desktop Enhanced Payroll

Existing subscribers are not impacted by this change. Existing QuickBooks Desktop Plus and Desktop Payroll subscribers can continue to renew their subscriptions after July 31, 2024.* We will continue to provide security updates, product updates, and support for existing subscribers.

QuickBooks Desktop Enterprise products are also not impacted by this change, and customers can continue to purchase Enterprise subscriptions after July 31, 2024.

My Take

Before I begin, I would like to point out that these views are my own and do not constitute any measure of journalistic reporting or research. They contain only my opinions and viewpoints based on my experience in this field.

So, over my years of covering Intuit and accounting technology in general, the company has announced discontinued support for certain versions of its desktop product. Par for the course for desktop products, in general. But this latest news, by my calculations, appears to be the first real indication the company may finally be moving on from desktop in its largest market.

Make no mistake, QB Desktop is still widely used and fairly well supported by the ProAdvisor community and managed services companies alike. As long as clients prefer it, despite all the marketing and education that goes into trying to transition the market to QuickBooks Online, desktop has a tight grip, more than people may think and on older versions of the product too.

And herein lies the rub. Even with this announcement, which make no mistake, is pretty big coming from Intuit, the true end to QuickBooks Desktop is still quite a ways off. And this, dear readers brings me to a point I’ve made for many years now: Intuit is its own biggest competitor.

QuickBooks Online was a product Intuit had since the early 2000s and, up into the early 2010s, growth was fairly slow. Since around 2011, when then president Brad Smith and co-founder Scott Cook publicly announced (like many software execs at the time) they were going “all in” on cloud, Intuit pushed hard to transition the accounting world at large from desktop to QBO, all the while continuing desktop support and creating and selling new versions of the flagship product.

Even today, in 2023, over 20 years since QBO was put into play for accountants and small businesses, Intuit and its ProAdvisors are still in the business of transitioning desktop users and may be for some time to come. This is at the core of my statement about them being their own biggest competitor. Not Sage. Not Xero, not any accounting and financial cloud product maker on the market today.

Don’t get me wrong, I think Intuit still has a lot of support in the accounting and small business community and it has made some smart and strategic acquisitions over the years. But one of its biggest shortfalls, in my view, is in having its online product share the same name as its desktop product.

The main problem here, and has been for many years now, is expectation. When you have a product as ubiquitous to accounting and small business as QuickBooks Desktop was (and I’d say still is), giving a brand new (at the time) product the same name as an on-premises product sets the expectation that it is indeed that product, but in a different environment (in this case, cloud).

But as many accountants and small business users know, QBO is not Desktop, nor will it ever be. It is QBO and not a feature-for-feature, function-by-function version of its on-premises, older sibling. This is a large reason (not the only one) why after over a dozen years and millions(billions?) of dollars in resources, even a dedicated live annual event for the QBO brand, it has not fully replaced QB Desktop and ProAdvisors continue to struggle to transition clients to it.

Make no mistake, QBO has a very strong market share(claiming 6.5 million global users) with its largest market still in the US and larger than any of its would-be competitors. But as long as support and sales of the desktop product continue, it will, as I stated, remain its own biggest competitor. And in my humble view, I think execs at Intuit know this and have for some time.

So, is this recent news finally the beginning of the end? Perhaps. On a final note, I do recall at a Scaling New Heights conference in 2015 when Jim McGinnis, who then lead Intuit’s Accountant and Advisor Group, swore to a very agitated group of ProAdvisors that Intuit “would always support Desktop.” Maybe nothing is truly forever, especially in technology.

21 comments

  1. Agree 1,000% about the name thing Seth. I used to always tell people it has the same name and both are general ledger products but they ARE TWO DISTINCT products.
    I think the new offering of QBO Ledger is one more way they will kill off Desktop. Those that love Desktop may just need to upgrade to Enterprise

  2. QBO is one or the worst programs around. I will not refer clients to the online version. QBO is not a user friendly option.

    1. 100% agree. QBO by being browser based is inherently inferior. I cannot be limited to only have 1 window open at a time. Does anyone at intuit know what is like to actually sit in front of a computer and operate a program for 8+ hours a day… I think NOT!…

      It is inane to me….. I started as a teeneager doing data entry in a computer room 8hours a day, 5 days a week. You learn really quickly to appreciate “tight” programming. Every keypunch counts, now every Keypunch and Mouse Click counts.

      QBO is NASTY, I don’t care about remote access flexiblilty….
      GIGO…..(GARBAGE IN GARBAGE OUT).

  3. Define a “subscriber”. I am a QB ProAdvisor that gets the annual new version. I assume that will continue.
    But my stand-alone company clients that are using a QB Desktop version of any particular year (2021,2022.etc), will or will not be allowed to purchase a newer QB Desktop version when they decide to update after July 2024?

  4. From a quickbooks advisor statement selling QBO has always been impeded by public marketing. Do away with desk top then we move on in our jouney! NOW THEN interject AI and tell it to be your in house back office bookkeeper? Another change is/are occurring for mankind?

  5. Thanks for your perspective, I really appreciate it! It still befuddles me that they took a product that succeeded in dominating the market, and then completely changed it for the online version, mostly for the worse.

    QB is the only accounting software I really know–but I do wonder if there’s another product out there that’s closer to QB desktop than QBO is. Any thoughts?

  6. QuickBooks desktop has gone downhill for many years and Intuit has decided to place more resources into QBO. The biggest problem is, even though QB Desktop has gotten worse, it’s still faster and better for most accountants. Most of my larger clients do not like their QBO subscription and we hate using QBO. It is a horrible alternative and we have constant issues. Sales and Use tax on the platform have constant issues that have cost my clients thousands of dollars. There are days it is too slow to function. Features go down. I see a world where Intuit goes under due to its own arrogance. Thats my opinion.

  7. I use QB Desktop because I am the accountant and usually the tax preparer for multiple clients and thus don’t want to use QBO. I have already felt the dropping of support for several clients because my version can no longer use the bank feed. I don’t want (and can’t afford) upgrading to the current QBD and having to pay $540 each year to be able to use this feature for the few clients where it is useful.

  8. I think the death of Desktop maybe the largest blow to the accounting world. Larger than the CPA pipeline. I know many SR accountants and bookkeepers that have told their superiors, when desktop goes away they will retire. I know of 3 accounting professionals in their early 60s that have said if they have to work on QBO they would rather start their retirement than “learn how to run a payroll from their phone”.

  9. As a CPA, I have used the desktop version for years. My client loves the desktop version. However, not everyone wants their accounting system in the cloud. As a professional, I hate the cloud base version of anything. Maybe because I am antiquated in my thinking, but I do not want to figure out how to send journal entries or other posting to my client that are not on Desktop. We advisors have a difficult time supporting our Desktop clients. And now you want us to support two types of clients, cloud based and Desktop. If QuickBooks drops Desktop, I promise you, if a new desktop version in introduced in the market, with one that is just as good or better then QuickBooks, I will move all of my client to that version.

  10. I think if there is another desktop accounting software package even 50% close to QB, if Intuit scrap QB desktop, accountants will go there.
    If Intuit wants accountant to move to QBO, 2most important features should be in QBO, 1, multi-windows to be opened and almost all the reports with features of desktop to be in QBO too
    I will find alternate soon once Intuit decides to close desktop version.

  11. Desktop is vastly superior to QBO. Night and Day. Not even close. QBO is difficult for our clients to navigate. It is more difficult for us to track and repair their errors. Especially the auto-downloads of bank and credit card statements. QBO tries to guess where transactions go and is frequently wrong while creating rules that don’t allow/limit changes. QBO queries to clients with no accounting knowledge and little experience with QBs in general become absolute rules for placement of transactions. QBO is the worst accounting software I have ever used. Would rather go back to Peachtree than use that product. Don’t understand why Intuit is pushing so hard. Will be pushing professionals away. Why are all of the windows full screen?

  12. As someone who has used QuickBooks Desktop for 20+ years, QBO Ledger just like QBO is an UTTER PIECE OF CRAP and upgrading to Enterprise is COST PROHIBITIVE for many “mom & pop” small businesses. Therefore, I’m recommending the accounting software included in my tax preparation software WHICH IS NOT AFFILIATED WITH INTUIT to all my bookkeeping and payroll clients so Intuit can go SCREW THEMSELVES!!

  13. Given the choice for clients, I still recommend the desktop versions. I tell them it’s like comparing a 1974 Ford Pinto to a 2003 Buick Regal. Neither is the most expensive option out there, but for what they’re wanting, the desktop version is much easier and less frustrating to use, and has many more features.

    Also, the data is on their local machines, and they don’t have to keep paying monthly fees to Intuit to keep access to their data. Once they own the desktop version, unless they’re running payroll or credit cards, they don’t need to upgrade every three years. We have several clients still using QB 2012, because it works for their purposes, and they don’t need the newer bells and whistles.

    And that’s part of why I think Intuit pushes QBO so hard. They want every customer paying every year, preferably every month. And once they have the customer using the online versions, they have them hooked. Stop paying, and you lose access to all of your data.

  14. I use 2017, 2015, and it works as well as QBO. I see no reason to go to cloud, especially when time is a premium. Desktop isn’t broken.
    My colleague uses QBO and always comments about another change, moving things around. We don’t have time to screw around with changes.

  15. I agree, QuickBooks Desk top is the top choice for small businesses who just need a program to run their business. My clients are mom and pop , and they have no idea how to use a computer, they give me paperwork, receipts and I prepare everything for them. They don’t know anything about cloud , unless they’re talking about the cloud in the sky

  16. I have used Quickbooks since it inception, and have been a ProAdvisor in the past. With 45 years experience as an Accountant/Tax Accountant, I have used several accounting software packages, both on PCs and mainframes. Quickbooks has made the versions after the 2003 version more difficult for the non-accountant user harder to use by hiding buttons, combining features, and adding steps that are non directional, and unable for my clients to use. As a Tax Accountant i have used Pro Series tax software and see the owners doing the same underhanded changes all for the ability to charge more every year for slight changes made that actually impede the usefulness of the product. This last change to the online version has gone way over the line and is actually very difficult for an Accountant to use and understand, let alone the non-accountant user trying to function with it. Tax season will be a disaster if we cannot get back to the desktop version to pull reports we need to complete the tax returns for our clients!!

  17. I get that Intuit has to bow to the hedge funds that bought it, and has to squeeze all the money it can out of customers. And I get that once you sell a desktop version that lasts for years, you don’t make as much money as you possibly can . . . hence the “need” to have a “subscription” service that attaches to the internet.

    But there’s no way I want to move my company data onto the cloud. It’s already unsecure enough on my desktop. I’m hoping there’s something out there that I can eventually move to other than an Intuit product.

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